Bennett Auditorium receives grant for repairs


Mississippi Representative Missy McGee partnered with University President Joe Paul to introduce a new grant to USM’s Bennett Auditorium.  


The grant is a part of the Community Heritage Preservation Grant, which was presented to the historic Bennett Auditorium for $235,000 from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The grant will go towards repairing the plaster of the building, damage to windows, and other reparations that will be needed to bring the building back to its original glamor.  


The announcement was made on January 23rd, where Paul was joined by McGee, a Hattiesburg native and USM alum. In securing the grant for the building, McGee worked with the USM Foundation Director Stace Mercier and School of Music Director Colin Mackenzie. Sara Hill, USM Physical Plant’s Architect and Manager of Space Utilization, secured the grant by writing a grant request. In doing so, the university received the full 75 percent matching fund that is available through the program.  


“This work will help us not only keep this historic structure beautiful, but also in use for future generations of Golden Eagles and community members so that they too might attend University Forum lectures by the greatest minds from across the country, and witness some of the best artists and musicians.” said Paul.  


The School of Music will mostly use the venue for musical events, providing an updated home to the Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra. The venue will also house serve as a welcoming site for the students that visit.   


“I’m very proud Bennett Auditorium will continue to serve as centerpiece of our beautiful campus, and now will be lovingly protected and restored for the use of students, home to the Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra, and enjoyed by the entire community for generations to come.” said McGee.  


Bennett Auditorium most recently underwent a major renovation in 1991, and has since required minor renovations to the exterior and interior to keep the building stable. The auditorium is commonly used for concerts and other events presented by the School of Music, orientation events for new students, and University Forums presented by the Honors College.  


The auditorium is one of the oldest buildings on campus, with a rich history behind it. The building was completed in 1930, and named in 1972 for the university’s second president, Claude Bennett, who oversaw construction and the need for a campus auditorium.  


The auditorium has hosted prestigious performers and speakers, such as Steve Martin, Ray Charles, Maya Angelou, Stan Lee, Kurt Vonnegut, Antonin Scalia, and many others.  


With the new repairs coming to the historic building, Bennett Auditorium should soon be back up and running and returned to its former glory—just as Claude Bennett intended.